cover image Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Nancy Horan. Ballantine, $26 (496p) ISBN 978-0-345-51653-4

Horan%E2%80%99s second novel (following Loving Frank) again mines the true story of a remarkable woman of history to impressive effect. This time, instead of Mameh Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright, the central couple is Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson. The novel charts their relationship from their first meeting in France, where Fanny takes her two daughters after leaving her irresponsible, cheating husband, Sam, and the death of her son, Hervey. At first, it%E2%80%99s Louis%E2%80%99s cousin Bob who teases Fanny out of her grief, but ultimately Louis, 10 years younger than Fanny, is the one who wins her heart. The novel goes on to describe Fanny%E2%80%99s return to America (she is later followed by Louis) and her divorce from Sam, marriage to Louis, and their years spent in the South Pacific traveling from one island to another. Her own writing talent is submerged in the wake of Louis%E2%80%99s growing fame, and her influence over him creates envy among his circle of friends in Britain. This beautifully written novel, neatly balanced between its two protagonists, makes them come alive with grace, humor, and understanding. Horan%E2%80%99s empathy for both Louis and Fanny allows her to capture their life together with all the complexity and nuance of a real-life relationship. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (Jan. 2014)